You probably haven’t met anyone who’s resolved to consume more cheese or processed meat in 2018. But as we all know, the odds are stacked against consumers who seek to make significant changes in their diets in favor of healthy, humane, and sustainable choices.
There are some incredibly useful tools to help people who embark on a diet-improving endeavor in 2018 (I tested out a couple here). But ultimately there are other factors at play that explain why I have little faith in New Year’s resolutions and why The Good Food Institute isn’t focused on pushing individual consumers toward dramatic dietary changes every January 1.
Instead, the GFI team is working to meet people where they are by addressing the factors that actually guide food purchasing decisions.
Here are the three main barriers – and opportunities! – for creating real, mass dietary change:
Unless you’re a superhuman that grows all of your own vegetables in your biodynamic backyard garden (do you need a roommate, by the way?), you’ve probably found yourself in a situation in recent memory where your food choices have been determined by what you can quickly grab on your way to work, not by what’s optimal.
The fact is that accessibility, store design, product placement, and marketing all play a significant role in determining our food purchasing decisions, even if we start with the best of intentions.
Impulse purchases in the checkout lane are a classic example of this. In fact, a recent survey showed that candy, energy bars, chips, and cookies comprise 90% of the food sold in checkout – pitting our desire to stick to resolutions against our biological drive to consume all the fat, sugar, and salt within arm’s reach.
Willpower is simply not the only factor at play. That’s why we’re taking a different approach: The team at The Good Food Institute is working tirelessly to increase access to healthy, humane, and sustainable foods so that it becomes just as easy to come by as junk food.
While more and more grocery stores do stock plant-based meat, milk, and cheese on their shelves, these products are often segregated into dark corners of the store with little to no promotion and can be difficult to find if you don’t already know where to look. And they certainly are never positioned in a way that would inspire an impulse purchase!
GFI’s policy team and Corporate Engagement Departments are working to address this problem on multiple fronts, ensuring a level legal playing field for plant-based foods alongside their animal-based counterparts and improving distribution, placement, and marketing of good food.
Maybe that person with the biodynamic garden also has stacks of cash lying around, but for the rest of us, we’re too often faced with the unpleasant choice between ordering the $1 slice of pizza or dropping $12 on a bland salad.
By supporting technological innovations in production and working to increase distribution of and investments in plant-based meat, dairy, and eggs, GFI is hacking the price problem and removing this barrier to keeping your resolutions.
Simply put, we want everyone to be able to buy a burger made from plant-based meat that has more fiber and vitamins with less fat and no cholesterol for the same price If not cheaper than a greasy beef burger.
Of course, this only works if the last of the three factors falls into place, bringing us to:
Let’s go back to that pizza vs. salad comparison, and just for the fun of it, let’s assume the price is the same.
What sounds more enticing: a pile of wilting Romaine or a decadent slice of melty goodness? For me (and if research is correct, for most people), taste is where my resolve as a conscious eater is really tested. I might be tempted by cheap, convenient food, but only if I think it’s also going to be delicious!
Beans have been cheap and broadly available since the dawn of modern agriculture, but we haven’t yet seen a broad shift in fast food menus from fried chicken to pinto plates. What if instead of replacing our decadent favorites with flavorless substitutes, we could replace our favorite and most familiar foods with dishes that tasted the same but didn’t have the negative impacts on our health and the health of the planet?
By investigating new protein sources and supporting research and development to create clean meat (real animal meat, sans slaughter), GFI is making this world possible.
Once people have an option that allows them to eat in alignment with their taste preferences, their budget, AND their values, we have no doubt consumers will make the switch. So while I continue to be pessimistic about New Year’s resolutions, I will make a resolution to you, loyal readers:
I resolve to work as hard as I can to make eating good food the default choice and not the difficult choice, and to create a food supply that makes it easy for all of us to meet our dietary goals.
Thanks for joining us on the journey.